MIKE MCCARN/Associated Press
2013 Record: 12-4 (1st NFC South)
Strengths: Center, Fullback, Quarterback
Weaknesses: Receivers, Left Tackle, Right Tackle
On paper Carolina's offense appears to be the division's weakest, but it also has the potential to take huge steps forward if new left tackle Byron Bell proves his skeptics wrong and Cam Newton makes the most out of a receiving corps that is filled with third-string caliber players.
The play of rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin will also play a large role in determining whether this offense struggles or strives in 2014. He is the lone wild card among a group of low-ceiling receivers, so solid production from him would be huge.
Strengths: Middle Linebacker, Right Defensive End, Left Defensive End, Weakside Linebacker, Left Defensive Tackle
Weaknesses: Cornerbacks, Strong Safety
The Panthers' secondary lags behind those of their divisional foes, but they compensate with the league's best front seven; Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson were the main components to a league-leading pass rush in 2013 (60 total sacks) and Luke Kuechly captains perhaps the most athletic corps of 4-3 linebackers in the league.
The team did lose starters Captain Munnerlyn (cornerback) and Mike Mitchell (safety) to free agency, but replacements Antoine Cason and Roman Harper are capable, considering how little Carolina asks from its secondary.
Carolina's defense should be elite once again in 2014 with the progression of its four projected second-year starters—defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, cornerback Melvin White and strongside linebacker A.J. Klein—and continued leadership of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Kuechly.
The offense is far more of an unknown and will determine the team's chances of defending their division championship or even returning to the playoffs at all this season.
Predicted 2014 Record: 10-6